The terms “autism” and “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD) are used for a group of developmental disorders that can appear in early childhood, usually between the ages of two and three. The different disorders that that make up ASD range from Asperger Syndrome to Autistic disorder, which is the most severe form of ASD. It is estimated that one out of every 88 eight year-olds will have ASD. The disorder is four times more likely to show up in males than it is in females.
Signs of Autism
The signs that a child may have autism may emerge as early as infancy. In some cases, the disorder may appear later on after the child appeared to be developing normally. The impairments that come with autism tend to show up in three areas:
• Social skills
Signs that a child may be autistic include:
• Withdrawal and an inability to engage socially
• A lack of awareness of others’ feelings
• Failing to respond to their name
• Failing to make eye contact
• Delayed language skills
• Abnormal tone or rhythm of speech
The parent is in the best position to catch the earliest signs of autism. If a child displays any of these signs, the parent should speak to their pediatrician about having them evaluated by a professional. It is very important that a parent recognize the early signs of autism as early treatment can have a dramatic effect on outcomes for the child.
Causes of Autism
Just as there is no one type of autism, there is no single cause. The causes of autism seem to be a mixture of genetic factors as well as environmental ones that influence the early development of the child’s brain. The link between the disorder and genetics seems clear since there appears to be a pattern of ASD in some families. Among the environmental factors are illnesses during pregnancy and if the child’s brain was deprived of oxygen during delivery. It is also thought that some children may be born with a susceptibility to the disorder, which is then “triggered”. The triggers have not yet been discovered.
What it Means to be Autistic
Each cases manifests differently. A significant number of those with autism have above average intellectual ability whereas others are more severely disabled and unable to live independently. Many autistic children have problems with gaining new skills or knowledge. Others are quick to learn but still have trouble with communication and developing social skills. Symptoms can improve over time if an autistic child gets proper treatment.
Treatments for Autism
While there is no cure for autism, it is possible to lessen disruptive behaviors and to provide autistic children with skills to help them be independent. No one single type of treatment works in all cases, the different treatment options are adjusted to suit each individual. Two of the most widely used treatments for autism are:
• Behavioral/Educational Therapies
These include programs for teaching autistic children how they should act around others and helping them to develop their communication skills. These programs may also include counseling for their families.
Antidepressants are sometimes used to help control certain symptoms of autism, like anxiety. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe antipsychotic drugs to help control extreme behavioral problems.
An autism diagnosis can be emotionally difficult for some parents, whereas for others it may provide an answer to questions they have had about their child’s behavior. In either case, it is important that they educate themselves about the disorder and work towards making life for their child better.
Denis Snyder is a freelance writer currently writing to bring awareness to autism and other complex disabilities. He humbly asks you to donate to the MukiBaum Accessibility Foundation.
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